Less work, more fun with paperback formatting

I’m working on a paperback today. I plan to get back to writing today (was supposed to do that days and days ago, but you know how that goes!) but first I want to finish up the interior formatting for the last release I did.

It’s a little tricky because it’s the longest book I’ve done to date, and I chose a 5 x 8 size for this series a long time ago and don’t want to change that. I also don’t want to go too small on the fonts, so I suffer with higher prices for the books and don’t worry about it. :-)

The paperbacks are more for me anyway just because I like having them.

On that note, I’m playing around with some stuff and have finally figured something out that’s been hindering me from having a basic template file that I can paste my manuscript into for an even easier paperback creation.

If you use section breaks in your manuscript (I do), you must delete them before you copy and paste the text into the template.

If you don’t delete the section breaks, your page layout formatting carries over into the template, messing everything up. I’ve tried this many times over the years and never could understand why it happened. I should have tried searching a little more diligently for the answer but I had fallen into the habit of formatting my paperback from scratch every time instead. I mean, I always tried at least once to copy and paste the text, but I had always given up after that and got on with the formatting.

That’s no longer necessary, because once I deleted the section breaks, the formatting didn’t carry over and my template held onto its page layout formatting for the whole document. Excellent news for me! :-)

Also excellent news is that I don’t actually need those section breaks since I gave up uploading Word docs to vendors (except for Smashwords) a long time ago. I make an EPUB in Jutoh, which testing shows puts page breaks where I want them anyway.

So one less step in my formatting process for the next book/story.

I’m going to test Smashwords on this too, with my next book. I do not yet know for certain that my page breaks will appear where I want them even without me putting them in manually, but I’ll find out. (Apparently the TOC is supposed to tell Smashwords where to insert page breaks but I don’t know for certain it’ll happen for all the formats Smashwords generates.)

If the page breaks don’t appear, I can add the “page break before” option to the heading 1 style in Word and manually insert the one other page break I need (between the title page and the copyright page, which I do not put at the end of the book because I don’t like it there).

Finally, I’m also playing around with Libre Writer for this paperback. Already I’ve discovered one thing it does that Word does not that I like very much. Libre Writer has a book layout view, much like Adobe Reader does. Word does not.

What makes this so awesome is that I can see the spreads (left and right pages side by side) as they’ll appear in the book. Word doesn’t give me that view and it can be a pain sometimes to notice where the blank pages are supposed to be but maybe aren’t.

Anyway, back to the fun stuff. :-) I’ll have an interior for this paperback before lunch if all goes well. :-) (I might still be tweaking it at that point, for margins and then hyphenation issues, but that’s just because I’m picky.)

So that three hours? More like twenty

It feels like Saturday. No idea why.

I’m still feeling a little under the weather here, and I’ve had so much coffee and tea today that I’m also wired up like a piano. Or maybe it’s just that I’ve drank too much too close together, because when I add up the volume, I realize I’ve actually had less than yesterday or the day before.

I did finish the book cover. Or the multiple book covers, I should say. Instead of taking three hours, it took about twenty. If I trim out the time for breaks and stuff once I stopped using the timer, I’d still say it took fifteen or more. I did not take breaks yesterday or this morning until I was so desperate for one I couldn’t have made it another minute without one.

This is one of the hazards of hyperfocus. I don’t enjoy it and it wears me out in a way flow (or being “in the zone”) doesn’t. Don’t ask me if it’s real; all I know is it feels real to me. I almost never feel good about it once I realize what I’m doing, because in the end I give up feeling like I’m in control of myself and my actions.

Maybe continuing with the timers would have helped—I don’t really know—but by the last three sessions I was just clicking OK + Restart Timer and going again the minute it dinged.

I wrote cover copy today, and spent almost four hours on it. It’s like I’m going for records for everything with this book, but in all the wrong ways. Cover copy is usually something I’m pretty quick with. Not today. I still don’t have it right. I can feel it.

But, on to other things for a little while. I have a book to read and edit that I should get started on, and I haven’t written 500 words a day in a couple of days, either. Ugh. Not feeling up to it tonight at all. I might just go to bed early.

Designing a book cover and fighting perfectionism

I’m working on a cover design today. I’m really not good at managing my time when I do this so I’m experimenting today in the hopes of keeping the time down to something reasonable.

Usually I just dig in and start playing with backgrounds, trying to come up with a composite I like. Today, I’m setting my timers up to work for me.

I’m going to design in half hour blocks. I’ve picked that length for the blocks because six of them make three hours, and each one is short enough that if I’ve let myself fall into a black hole of perfectionism, I can stop it before it consumes my entire day.

I really don’t want this cover to take all day. I have a headache, I’m tired and maybe a little sick, and I want to feel productive today.

I don’t feel productive when I get stuck in a loop of tweaks that almost invariably takes me back to where I started. :-)

I’m going record what I did during each half hour block so I can see if there’s something I can learn from this experiment.

Now, to be frank, my last few covers have taken significantly longer than three hours to create, so I’m not cutting myself off at three hours, just seeing how close I can get to done in that amount of time.

It’s not a lie that constraints and boundaries can boost creativity. I’ve experienced it firsthand many times. I’m hoping it will help today. ;-)

I’ll be using GIMP today. Version 2.8.22. It’s open source and free. I generally use stock photography, which I’ll most definitely be using today, and most of it comes from Dreamstime, all properly licensed. (I keep the license information, and if you use stock, you should too, because sometimes the stock disappears from the site and it can be challenging to find the license information after that—speaking from experience!)

First, I’m starting from the base of my last cover, which already has the fonts I need and the alignments for the typography in it.

Second, I’m going to start looking for a background I like.

Third, I’ll do whatever I have to do to blend some stuff together and make it unique and pretty and (hopefully) pop off the screen without being garish.

Fourth, I’ll try to get the type to look nice.

Fifth, I’ll crop and save the sizes I need.

I’m not allotting any of these tasks to any particular time slot, just laying them out so I can see what I need to do. :-)

Now. Time for that first timer.

 

And that answers that question about my paperback covers at CreateSpace

Got this just a short while ago:

Congratulations!

Your interior and cover files for xxxxxxxxxxxxx, #xxxxxxxx meet our technical requirements for printing.

The next step in the publishing process is to proof your book:

FOLLOW THIS LINK TO GET STARTED:

Which I assume means the embedded fonts in the paperback cover are A-okay.  There was no additional message about corrections made for me, on my behalf, or anything like that, so this answers the question of whether or not the PDF cover files would be accepted by CreateSpace with fonts embedded instead of being flattened into the image. Should’ve guessed, really, but I just wasn’t sure.

I’ll be ordering a proof to check this out and compare the quality of print to the covers I didn’t embed fonts for (sending only a flattened image PDF to CreateSpace), and scouring over the digital proof from CreateSpace. If the quality of the text appears better, I’ll definitely be doing this extra step from now on. If it isn’t any better, then I’ll just use GIMP, and only add Elements into the mix when I need to use a font that brings out that unfortunate GIMP text rendering (?) bug.

Also, I discovered something with this round of paperback creation. I’ve consistently had a problem with my PDF cover as exported from GIMP having a transparency that CreateSpace fixes for me. I’ve not had that problem this time. The difference? This time when GIMP popped up the little message during the PDF export, I unchecked all the little boxes for things GIMP was offering to do for me during the export. And now, no transparency warnings from CreateSpace for the three covers I exported directly to PDF from GIMP. Pretty happy to have figured that out. I was exporting a completely flattened image to PDF so there shouldn’t have ever been any transparency anyway, but obviously something GIMP was doing during the export on my behalf was creating it.

I am not going to finish those paperbacks today

Dang it. I’m not going to finish those paperbacks today. I got caught up with tweaking the look of the interior and spent too much time on the cover of one of them today (perfectionism is a trap), and here it is just about bedtime for me (oh, my tired eyes!) and I’ve submitted the files for only one paperback today.

So 2 down and 5 to go. Except I’ve realized that I still need to correct a book I found an error in a few weeks ago, so that means 6 to go. But that one doesn’t need a cover, just a few changes to the interior.

I’m very close to finishing a second tonight, and I think I’ll try to get it submitted before I call it a night. The other paperbacks are just going to have to wait. I want to do some writing tomorrow before I come back to them, maybe in the later afternoon. We’ll see.

I definitely want to wrap these up ASAP, because they’re one of the few things left that I need to do sooner rather than later, and when I’m done with them, I can truly focus for a while on just writing my books.

Paperbacks are taking longer than I had hoped

I finished one paperback today.

Meaning I have 6 to go.

:o

Here’s what went wrong. My paperback style set didn’t work. I’m not sure if I didn’t finish it, or what, but when I applied it to the document, only a few basic styles changed and the rest just kind of … broke. I don’t really know of a better way to explain it.

So instead of getting frustrated and trying to create a new style set (which was my first inclination), I just made manual adjustments to the styles, got everything the way I wanted it, and then saved over the old style set with the new ones.

It’ll either work or it won’t, but I got one paperback done today and that’s all I care about.

While I was doing all that, I used OneNote to create step-by-step list of what I need to do to make sure I don’t forget anything during the formatting.

Now, I’m calling it a night. I got up way to early again today and I’m too tired to stay up. :)

CreateSpace cover template generator at Bookow

I meant to publish this a few days ago when I was in the midst of working on my paperbacks. I tested the Bookow CreateSpace cover template generator and I really like it.

The templates are similar to the CreateSpace templates, but they’re an exact fit for CreateSpace book covers. CreateSpace itself doesn’t generate templates that are an exact fit, so I have a spreadsheet that does it for me. CreateSpace’s own templates are done in batches of 10 pages, so they’re close, but not exact.

My spreadsheet came up with 3268.5 x 2475 as the dimensions I need for my cover. Rounded, that’s 3269 x 2475 at 300 ppi.

Bookow generated a template sized 3269 x 2475 for my book.

Spot on. :D

That was for the PNG file. The PDF file when opened in GIMP came up short after setting it to 300 ppi. However, that might be a quirk I just don’t know how to deal with, and I never use the PDF anyway, only the PNG, even from the CreateSpace generated templates. So there you go.

The Bookow page also has a few other resources on that page that are useful, including the ISBN-13 hyphenator, which I had fun with.

How I format paperbacks in Word

Despite needing to write today, I’m fighting with myself to get started, so I’ve decided to take advantage and put myself to work doing something else: formatting paperbacks!

So this is my plan for today: I want to try to get as many of the paperbacks I’ve been needing to format as possible done by lunch. In fact, that’s my challenge for today!

I like to use Microsoft Word to format my paperbacks. The thing is, I tried Adobe InDesign and I just don’t like working with it. The learning curve is steep, and although there are tutorials, I know Word, I like Word, and I’m comfortable with it. And I’m pretty happy with how my paperbacks have turned out over the years, so that’s what I’m going to stick with.

First I have to commit to the size I want for my paperbacks. That’s going to be easy for the pen name series because I used 5.5 x 8.5 and I loved it. (If you follow the link, be sure to set zoom to 100%.) For all my other paperbacks, I format for the 5 x 8 paperback size.

I do want to reformat my previous paperbacks to the 5.5 x 8.5 size too, but first I’m going to test it with my shortest novel to see if I can make it look good and still reach a page length that will allow a spine, because there is a limit under which CreateSpace will not allow you to put spine text on a book. First I’ll focus on margins and leading, then I’ll pad with some ads for the follow up books if I have to, using the advertisements in some published books from my bookshelves as a model, or a chapter or two excerpt of the next book. I want that spine text. A book just doesn’t look professional without it.

Reformatting the rest of the books will probably have to wait, but I can go ahead and put the new books in the larger format if I decide the test book looks good. Things will be inconsistent for a while, but if I commit to the new size, I’ll make an effort to get the older books reformatted ASAP.

Here’s the deal:

I do not have templates for this. I’ve discovered that copying and pasting by chapter takes too long. Anything else, and I end up with strange formatting issues I have to fix. For example, when I copy and paste the entire document into the template, my section breaks cause some pages to revert to 8.5 x 11 and then I have to fix that.

If I save an intermediate version, strip the section breaks, then put them back in once I’m in the template, well, that takes time and is as tedious as anything else, so why bother?

Here’s what I do instead.

I save a copy of my master file.

I adjust the page setup, including margins, section starts, and paper size.

I change the document’s style set to my paperback style set. I try to stay consistent across every book with my styles, because this part doesn’t work so well if I don’t. My master document is set to use my ebook style set. The change to the paperback style set applies justification, font sizes, line spacing (leading), and other formats I need specific to what I want for my paperbacks. This means I don’t have to do a lot of settings adjustments for my chapter text. It all happens automatically as soon as I change the style set. It also means I don’t have to remember what all those little tweaks are and that’s good too.

I turn on hyphenation.

I add headers, alternating the page number, my author name, and the book title for odd and even pages. I don’t use footers.

I adjust the settings to eliminate headers on blank pages and the first page of every chapter.

I double check that the headers are correct for every chapter! This is important because I recently discovered I missed a chapter in one of my (published) books and for one chapter, and one chapter only, the header has a different book’s title in it. :o (It’ll make for an interesting first edition if I ever get famous enough to have people looking for them, right?) But that’s something I need to correct, and I’m planning to do that when I reformat.

I add the flourishes to the chapter headings, scene breaks, and first lines.

At this point, I’m almost done.

It wasn’t always this way. There was a time when I worried excessively about widows and orphans because I preferred even page spreads (the same number of lines on facing pages) and I spent days making minor adjustments on every page to force the text to flow in a way that eliminated them. But after a few years of this and a hard look at the cost versus profit of doing these paperbacks, I decided I was going to give that up. Now I have widows and orphans turned on in Word for my chapter paragraphs in my paperback style set. I do end up with some pages having fewer lines than others but it’s a reasonable trade off for the time saved and the money earned from these books. And picky as I am, I honestly don’t find that it’s that noticeable at all.

I double and triple check everything, tweak as necessary, and then I’m done.

I print to a PDF file.

I don’t save to a PDF because Word can’t embed Open Type fonts into PDFs.

Then I look everything over again.

I upload to CreateSpace, confirm the number of pages, and start on my paperback cover. :)

***Well. This challenge didn’t go well. I worked all day on one paperback, and spent the rest of the day wallowing in indecision as I tried to make myself commit to a font size reduction to make my paperbacks more affordable and a trim size change for the same reason.

I finally decided to embrace the font size change, because I’m just going from 12 to 11.5. Despite how agonizing it feels to give up the generous size as a cost saving measure, I realize on a rational level that it’s not that big a deal. The font size is still significantly larger than most of the books on my shelves and is a reasonable size.

As for the trim size? I can’t do it. I’ve decided not to change. The pen name books will stay 5.5 x 8.5 while the other books will stay 5 x 8. Maybe someday I’ll change my mind, but not today. In all honesty, it’s because I kind of like this size best when I’m holding the books. On the other hand, it’s also a damn lot of work and I’m just not ready to tackle it. Too many books to redo!

Now, I’m moving on.

I’m giving this up for the night and writing tomorrow. I’ll pick up the paperbacks again only after I’ve made some significant progress on my book.

How I’m building my new pen name: Eighteen months (and two books) in

I have a pen name I’m hoping to build into a nice second earner. Some diversification if you want to call it that to keep me from relying on only one genre to keep me afloat and happy as a writer.

The only problem is that I’ve written so much slower than I had planned to write that the pen name has suffered—a lot.

My main focus has always been my main pen name, and I don’t ever see that changing. Those are the books I most want to write. I really want to write this pen name series too, but the drive just isn’t as strong as it is for some of my other series. And there’s the fact that the other series pay the bills, so I also have to take that into consideration.

Since I don’t do promotions* as a general rule, my promotion of choice has always been to write more books. It’s a great strategy if you have a series, and I have multiple series. Every time I release a new book in a series, I get sales of the previous books and some crossover sales of my other series too. So it works.

But you’ve got to release books!

I’ve released exactly two books for this pen name since I began this experiment back in June 2015. :o

I released book two a full year after book one. It looks like book three is going to be eight months behind book two. Releasing this slowly isn’t going to generate momentum. I know this, and my earnings for the series prove it.

On the other hand, I have earned some money on these two books even if it’s not a lot, and I’m quite happy about that. I do believe if I could speed up releases, the series might do all right in the long term.

So that’s something I’m hoping for in 2017. To write more of these books and see if it helps earnings. I love this series and I don’t want to have to ignore it just so I don’t go broke.

The details

I pulled the first book out of KDP select the moment I knew about when I’d be releasing the second book.

When I released the second book, it was DOA on Amazon. I was disappointed. I’d hoped for more.

Going wide with both books at once did generate some momentum on Apple and I sold a few copies there.

I really did intend to experiment with price on these books when I started this experiment but I just haven’t done it. I might still do it when I release book three.

The numbers

(I’ll have to consolidate all my reports of individual title sales into one, which I haven’t done yet, because it’s going to be so much work. I really never thought I’d need that much detail…)

*** I’m back! That took a long time! (Two entire days, to be exact.) I’m not breaking sales down by date, just by title, because anything more is just more trouble than it’s worth when working with so many different vendors.

*** In fact, adding up sales for the titles is more trouble than it’s worth—because I’m not really interested in those numbers even now that I’ve done it through the end of 2016. I don’t think I’ll update the spreadsheet going forward. I just don’t care about title sales. Nothing in the report surprised me. My brain has obviously been doing just fine consolidating the information I see in my sales reports and keeping me informed in a general sort of way about the profitability of my various series.

Sales of the pen name books for 2015 & 2016

Book One 984.29
Book Two 371.70
Series Total Earnings 1,355.98

There are a few numbers that aren’t in yet, but any changes to these numbers for the end part of 2016 will be minor.

As for expenses, all I have invested in these books are my time and skill, some stock art, and the domain fee for the pen name website.

Not sure I’ll bother with another update unless (until) the pen name takes off (a thought I haven’t given up on at all). I just need to write more to get there!

*I hate promoting. If it ever becomes 100% necessary to success, I guess my writing career is going to bite the dust, because I’m just not interested.

Smashwords is finally about to start paying monthly

Some good news from Smashwords to end the year:

Smashwords Plans for 2017

In broad strokes, below is what you can expect from Smashwords in the coming year.  If some of this looks familiar to our goals for 2016 (most of which we met), it’s because some of these items below will remain persistent themes for us for many years to come:

  • Faster payment cycles – January will be our last quarterly payment round, after which Smashwords is going monthly starting in February.  Yay!

Yay is right. I distribute to Apple through Smashwords, although the day might come when I’ll decide to buy a Mac and go direct (or Apple will finally get a clue and realize they should stop making it so difficult for authors to publish on their platform!) and I sell a few books through OverDrive and LibraryDirect and from the Smashwords’ store itself.

After the mess with All Romance Ebooks, I’ll be glad—ecstatic really—to finally be receiving monthly payouts from all the distributors/retailers I use.

Links and a comment about All Romance Ebooks

This morning I spent a bit of time reading up on the All Romance Ebooks closing. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned, but I’ve decided to ignore the settlement offer of .10 on the dollar for the $780 I’m owed. On the other hand, I’m still undecided* if I’ll bother pursuing the issue, because I know how that will interfere with my ability to concentrate on what’s important to me in 2017. The world is full of thieves, but it’s also full of really good people, and I just don’t know that I have time to bother with the thieves for that amount of loss. If it had been more money, my reaction I’m sure would be different. But I admit to a feeling of apathy about the money, and maybe that’s a sign that I really do need to concentrate on other things for the moment.

Besides, by not taking the settlement, until or unless ARe goes into bankruptcy, they’ll continue to owe me that money and I’ll continue to be able to go after it at a later date.

Here are some links related to the issue:

December 31, 2016 (Kristine Kathryn Rusch @ Patreon) Business Musings: All Romance Ebooks & Visions of The Future: Part One

December 30, 2016 (Writer Beware) All Romance eBooks’ Sudden Closing: Many Questions, Few Answers

December 30, 2016 (BlogCritics) Court Documents Regarding All Romance E-Books’ Disturbing Business Practices Surface

December 29, 2016 (BlogCritics) Publisher All Romance Ebooks: Closing Hits New Low In Stealing From Authors

December 28, 2016 (The Digital Reader) All Romance eBooks is Shutting Down (I’m the unattributed quote! I don’t remember ever being quoted before, so that’s funny.)

December 28, 2016 (Romance Writers of America) All Romance eBooks Closing Dec. 31

In several comments and articles, people mention the site being down, but I haven’t had any problems getting into ARe’s website. The first day there was a bit of slowness, but it has come up every time for me since. And of course, I downloaded my spreadsheet of sales the moment I received the email and it matched the monthly reports I download, so nothing had changed for me as some people have reported happening to them. In fact, I’ve just gone and made a screenshot now and it still shows the same amount due.

If I come across any more interesting news about it, I’ll update this post instead of writing a new one.

*In the time since I posted this, I’ve decided to accept this loss and move on. I just don’t believe I’ll ever collect enough to make it worth my time or energy to even try. Now that 2017 is here, I’m turning my attention to making 2017 an awesome year for my writing and my income.

All Romance Ebooks is closing, and despite losing money I’m owed, I’m not that sad about it

As a general rule, I prefer to not spend a lot of my time letting negative thoughts go round and round in my head, mostly because I tend toward obsession and I don’t want to obsess over negative thoughts!

So here are some not so negative things about the All Romance Ebooks closing.

I’m going to shave anywhere from 1 to 3 hours off my total publishing time for every book I publish.

  • 5 to 10 minutes to make a wider cover (1:1.5 vs. 1:1.6) that I have to shrink to 200 x 300
  • 30 to 60 minutes formatting a copy of my master book file for PDF
  • 5 minutes to generate a custom sized cover image for the PDF file (because I always forget to export this image when I’m exporting my usual sizes)
  • 10 to 20 minutes importing my EPUB from Jutoh into Calibre, making some tweaks, and exporting as a MOBI
  • 30 minutes actually publishing the files to ARe

If there are issues, or I get caught up in what I’m doing, all these things can take longer. :)

And now I don’t have to do any of those things!

I need only EPUB files and my Word file for everywhere else. Smashwords uses doc files instead of docx, but I use the same file, make a quick save as doc, add one line to note it’s the Smashwords edition, and save again. I do nothing else to my file for Smashwords.

So getting rid of ARe is a real boon to my process.

One more vendor who pays only quarterly is gone.

I hate having to deal with payments like that in my sales spreadsheet, because it’s monthly, and ARe is always off by pennies and I have to make adjustments that annoy me because they aren’t right.

My cover design process just got easier!

I don’t have to worry about making my covers wide enough for the 1:1.5 200 x 300 covers I needed for ARe.

I’ve been designing my covers to the 1:1.6 ratio from the beginning and I like them. That size looks best to me on all my differently sized reading devices and apps, but I always had to make the 1:1.5 covers for ARe because I couldn’t stand stretching the covers and making them look misshapen.

In fact, I’m thinking about using this opportunity to revisit my cover template.

I’m pretty happy about all these things, to be honest. :)

Derailed from writing yesterday by All Romance Ebooks news

All Romance Ebooks (aka Omnilit) is closing and I received the notice yesterday. So instead of writing I spent the day inactivating my books, removing links to them from my author websites, adjusting my sales spreadsheet, and reading reactions to the news.

This led me to doing my receipts and bills which is something I usually do on Tuesdays after my bank posts weekend transactions but didn’t do this Tuesday because I was sick. Then I caught up the accounting for my writing business because I’m going to be out about $780 because of ARe’s closure.

They’re offering to settle to avoid bankruptcy and legal action but I’m undecided.

Accept $0.10 on the dollar?

That’s $78 in lieu of the $780 that I’m owed. Knowing I can sue is worth $78 to me and $0.10 on the dollar is ridiculous.

But my cost benefit analysis tells me I should take the settlement because I won’t recoup the money owed and the stress of suing would not be good for me and my writing.

If I had the money, I’d sue for the principle of the thing, but 2016 has not been my best year. I didn’t publish enough and what I did publish wasn’t the stuff I can count on to make good money.

Priorities, huh?

Maybe I’ll get them right in 2017.

Writing to market is a verb

Dean Wesley Smith has put up some good blog posts lately about writing and artistic freedom and the writing to market craze. Of course, one of the first things that happened were several comments by people who wanted to clarify exactly what they believe writing to market is: finding that intersection between what you love and what is likely to sell better. That’s like, duh, but it’s become the big “writing to market” meme that isn’t really real.

Here’s why: If you love something and you’re debating between two equally strong ideas, anyone with any self-awareness at all is going to choose the one that could put more money in the bank. But here’s the catch: It’s also very possible you’ll be completely wrong and the one idea won’t sell any better than that other idea you had. But since both ideas were pulling at you equally hard, it’s no big deal because you would have written one or the other no matter what. In this world, all is good, whether that idea gets you more sales or not.

So why’d I call it a meme that isn’t really real? Because people are co-opting the words “writing to market” to mean something it does not mean. Writing to market is choosing to write something because you think there’s a market for it. That’s really all it means. You can add all the extras to it that you want, to make it fit what you want it to mean, but it’s a pretty simple phrase. You’re writing something because you think there’s a market there.

Because.

And if you’re doing that, then you’re putting the market before the desire no matter how you pretty up the phrases. The intersection of what you love and what sells, remember?

If you limit your choices only to markets you love (as the meme tells you to), then you’re really not writing to market in any real sense at all, only claiming to.

There’s another problem with the writing to market craze—a viewpoint issue. There are two distinct ideas of what writing to market means that really aren’t compatible.

Writing to market as a verb (action). This is where I sit. I believe you have to choose to write to market. If you don’t choose, you’re just writing and if you happen to hit a market that has a lot of buyers in it, then it’s a happy accident. I happen to love genre fiction and there happens to be a really big market for it. I figure this is how I’m making my living. Some of my books have hit markets with buyers who really want to buy books like mine.

We’re the people who don’t immediately think: Hey, you can totally write what you love and write to market. We tend to believe these two concepts are completely incompatible. Like I said before, if you’re limiting your choices to markets you love, then you’re really not writing to market, you’re writing what you love and using the market as a decision point between ideas. Which, again, is kind of “duh.” Decisions are hard, especially when you’re deciding between things you really love. In fact, those might be the hardest decisions out there.

Writing to market as a noun (result). This is where a lot of the biggest proponents of the “you must write to market if you want the best chance of finding success” crowd lives.

It also includes the people who like to argue that anyone who finds any kind of success as a writer is writing to market whether they want to admit it or not.

Basically, the best that I can figure, the people who believe this second definition of writing to market believe that if you sell books, you’re writing to market whether you agree that you’re writing to market or not, because they’re treating “writing to market” as a thing that happens instead of a thing that’s done.

The big divide seems to me to be this verb/noun issue. If two people have different definitions of the term they’re arguing over, it’s no wonder there’s conflict.

For one, people like me don’t like being told we’re doing something when we know we’re not. On the other hand… well, I’ve got nothing. I don’t happen to think of writing to market as a noun, because “writing to” something is something you kind of have to do. ;)

I happen to believe that anyone who believes the second definition is kind of nuts. :D I’m also sure they’re probably thinking the same thing about me. ;)

Like I said: Incompatible viewpoints.

Disheartened by a bad book

I can’t make people like my books. I can’t really change what and how I write, or if I could, I wouldn’t want to, because then I just wouldn’t want to write. I don’t always enjoy the process of writing, and it’s the story, written the way I want it written, that carries me through when I’m feeling that way.

Writing is hard for me.

Sure, sure. There are people who’ll say that’s dumb, that writing isn’t hard, but those people? They don’t know how it feels to be me. I love making up stories, but writing them down, in some kind of coherent way, is really damn hard work. There are lots of days when I’d rather clean bathtubs all day than try to make sense of the stuff in my head and put it down in readable form.

I do the best I can with everything I write, and I do try to improve. And I recognize that not everyone is going to like what I write—especially because I write primarily for me.

All that doesn’t change the fact that it’s still disheartening when I realize I’m not writing things other people enjoy in the same way I do.

I’m pretty sure my last book didn’t hit the mark with a great many people. I had that realization after I accidentally saw a review I really didn’t need to see and went looking for evidence to support it one way or another—and it was an accident, because I never would have gone looking for it but one retailer in particular emails me reviews and I can’t stop them from doing it.

Probably not my best idea today.

What I found was that this latest book is my lowest rated book on Goodreads, by nearly a star. The thing I liked most about the book is the thing really not loved by most other readers. People do not seem to be liking this book. I’ve had a few 5 star ratings, but no reviews to go along with them, while the reviews I do have are all pretty negative.

Right now, I’m feeling like I’m just not that great a writer. My books have flaws, some of those flaws pretty major, but other than continuing on as I am, I’m not sure there’s anything I can do about it.

I’m doing the best I can. I just have to keep going, write what I write, and hope people continue to buy my books despite those flaws.

I’m not where I wanted to be

It’s been four years since I started self-publishing. I published my first story in July 2012 and I’ve never looked back. I quit my job in September of that year, lived on savings, and wrote as much as I could. I had a ridiculous amount of faith that it was going to work out, even when it really didn’t look like it was going to work out.

But it has, and I’m making a living on the money I earn from my fiction.

But now I feel stuck.

It’s been four years and I’m not where I wanted to be at this point, with either income or output. I know what to blame: My inconsistency. I don’t meet my word count goals. I can’t stick to a regular production schedule. I don’t have a regular publishing schedule.

The only thing I’ve done with any consistency is spend weeks and months struggling to keep myself writing when the doldrums hit. My latest zero word day streak ended today after 35 days.

I’ve had 145 zero word days this year. That’s already more than in any other year, and this year has 4 months to go.

I’ve got a problem, and I’m not sure how to fix it.

On the other hand, my output over the last four years is eerily consistent considering how irregular my writing schedule is.

2012: 146,821 (tracks to 291k for the year)
2013: 268,191
2014: 217,641
2015: 250,011
2016: 137,080 (tracks to 205k for the year)

Of course, if I continue to fail to write, this year could be the first year I dip below 200k for the year. I really can’t let that happen. I already feel disconnected from my writing, and I don’t like that feeling. I’m just not sure what’s going on.

I want to change this, to improve my output numbers, but at this point, I’m just not sure what it’s going to take, or if I’m capable of it. As you can imagine, this is a very frustrating time for me. I’m at a low point, and I’m very much feeling like I just don’t have that something special that drives people to exceed their limits and achieve great things.

Starting early, starting tired, but it’s got to be done

I woke up tired today. Which is a huge bummer because I really wanted to wake up energetic so I wouldn’t have to fight so hard to write this morning. I’m just… tired. I don’t really know why and I still have a bit of a headache.

I’m sure it’s all related, but for the moment, I need to set all those feelings aside and sink into my book.

I’m going to keep my sessions short this morning, and I’m not going to focus on the timer so I can ease into this. Maybe some 15 minute sessions just to have a record of time spent. No pressure. I’ll be back to post an update when I have something to report.

Praying the A/C repair people show up quickly and get my A/C sorted out before evening. (Supposed to be an all-day job, according to what I’ve been told. My biggest fear is that they won’t finish today. That would make me ridiculously sad.)

Eh. Forget that. I’m sad already. The new pen name book is doing about what I expected: nothing much. I started that pen name to do some pricing experiments, and yet I’ve fallen right back into my groove and done no real experimenting at all. And that genre? Probably can’t support the pricing scheme I’m using. I’m going to have a make a decision on that, but I feel weird about changing the price so soon after publishing, because I have sold 6 9 copies at the $6.99 price. But since I have zero intention of running ads or anything of the sort on the pen name at the moment, the books are just not going to do anything more than what they’re doing if I don’t change something. The smart thing to do here would be to get the next book out within 30–60 days, and ha ha ha, that’s a total laugh. I have too many books due for my primary pen name to even contemplate that.

And… this sent me off to create a spreadsheet to calculate just how it would be possible, and I’ve had to face the fact that it’s very possible, if I were able to stick to writing 98,333 words a month, which I’m supposed to be doing. Gah. Today is not the day to stare my failures in the face. It’s too depressing when I’m already bummed.

But yes, if I wrote approximately 3,233 a day (3,933 a day with my 5 publishing days off a month), I could have the next pen name book done in—get this—about 47 days, and that’s after completing three other books first. I’m so disgusted with myself right now, because now I know it’s possible, but I know the chance of me successfully reaching and maintaining 98,333 words a month is… not good.

Why does this feel so hard sometimes?

I make it hard. That’s why.

Time to just get back to focusing on getting my 5 hours / 3,933 words a day in, and let the rest fall into place.

Editing and proofreading finished!

Finally, I finished reading the last section of the book this morning, and the edits for that bit were super quick. I actually like the book much more than I remember thinking back when I finished it! :D

But it’s been more than a month since I finished the book, so I guess that makes a difference. :)

So, now I’m onto formatting and publishing. I need to finish all that today. :o

Also, I’m still trying to decide if I want to go back into KDP with this pen name or not. I pulled the book out when the last renewal came up, in anticipation of making sure both books were either in or out, on the same time line.

This is the second pen name book, and I’m not expecting great things from it, not after a wait of nearly a year since the last book came out. :o

So: do I want to put the book into KDP?

  • In favor of KDP
    • Time saved by publishing only at Amazon (about a day)
    • First book was in KDP, so I might see better results for second book if it goes in for at least a little while
  • In disfavor of KDP
    • The first book will be a new book on all vendors other than Amazon, so I’ll have two new books on those sites
    • I like my books being available in lots of places
    • I don’t like being paid by page reads. Reminds me too much of the rip-off that is Google Adsense, etc: big companies taking advantage of small publishers to make big money and share only a pittance with the person responsible for the actual content. Amazon’s page read program isn’t that bad, but it feels bad.

Hmm. I’ll have to decide, but I can finish the formatting first!

Finally, do I want to continue with a pricing experiment (which is one reason I created the pen name) or do I just want to price at $6.99?

Both questions I need answers too by the end of the day today.

Now here’s some accountability for today’s activities. (I’ve decided I really like using lists for this stuff, no idea why.)

  • 11:29 am
    • Time to format my Word docx, will try to finish before I stop for lunch today.
      • Stopping at 12:30 pm with only the table of contents to finish. The other formatting only took so long because I was puttering with my styles and updating the formatting of the first book in the series.
  • 4:10 pm
    • Starting on the table of contents
    • Finished shortly thereafter
  • Worked and reworked the blurbs (descriptions) for the current book and the one before too many times to count before I came up with something I really liked. Two hours at least, although I didn’t really keep up.

Uh, I gave up. It’s just been ridiculously hot in here this afternoon/evening, with 90° Fahrenheit and sun outside, making it hard to cool down at the computer. I’ll get back at it in the morning when it might be at least a little cooler. (Did I say they’re finally coming on Tuesday to fix the A/C? Yay!)

Also, I got distracted by a movie I didn’t intend to watch to the end while I ate supper. But it was lovely and wonderful and I couldn’t turn it off. Consider this a rec for The Age of Adalind. I loved it!

Supper was frozen blueberries, fresh cherries, and plain Yogurt and just enough honey to make it sweet (makes a really cold desert), a peach, an orange, and some strawberries. Too much fruit, I know. But I’m not cooking in this heat. Forget that.

Anyway, I’ll move on to generating my EPUB tomorrow and publish sometime after that.

The truth is, I haven’t decided on the KDP or pricing issue anyway, so I’ll make a commitment on those tonight. Then I’ll get up and get this stuff done, so I can get back to writing, ASAP.

Now, off to bed so I can be up early enough to get some windows open and get this house cooled off before facing another 90° day.

About yesterday, book covers, a sleepless night, and work

I started working on some book cover practice yesterday and got sucked in so I missed my last writing block.

I did a lot of thinking yesterday about some decisions I needed to make about covers. I’ve hired out the latest cover for one of my series. I’m so ambivalent about having done that that it’s driving me crazy. I committed, though, and I’m going to see it through.

The plan was to get the one cover, decide if I was ready to use it, then order the entire series redesigned. But the cover didn’t fit the book. It did, however, seem well-suited to the next one. So I had to decide if I wanted to commit to double the cost for two covers. In the end, I decided to go ahead. So I’ve actually commissioned two covers in that series at this point.

I probably shouldn’t have, because I’m still not sure I’m actually going to use the covers. But I want to use them. And how does that make sense, huh?

I think it’s because: (1) I like being in complete control of my publishing schedule. I can’t quite do that if I have someone else responsible for the covers; (2) I have certain expectations for how all of my covers work together and getting something from the designer means either I have to be very specific about my wants (maybe too specific to be easy to work with) or I’ll have to redo all my other covers to consolidate the branding. I’ve already run into a few issues, changed my mind about something, and now am not sure the designer is going to deliver something I’m going to be satisfied with.

In the end, I’ll just consider it a learning expense if that happens and I’ll use my own covers. (Let me be clear: the cover draft I’ve seen from the designer is great. That’s not the kind of satisfaction I’m talking about above.)

Just last night I was reminded of something I’ve said I believed (but maybe didn’t really believe, because I actually found myself surprised). I asked for and received some feedback on a few of my own covers (all variations for the same book) and surprise, surprise, it wasn’t the one that looked the most professional to me that got called the most eye-catching. That surprised me, to be honest. I thought one cover in particular was much stronger than the others, and one was much weaker, and yet the comments didn’t bear out my expectations.

And then I asked myself: why not?

I’ve said several times that once you get a certain level of decent with a cover, it doesn’t usually pay to keep trying to make it better, because it won’t really make much of a difference. I mean, yes, I do believe there are certain covers that just have something special that can attract a large quantity of people, but those are kind of like books: they happen by chance, they have a certain spark that can’t really be analyzed and recreated except on superficial levels. Then you hope for the best.

The only thing important after reaching “good enough to catch someone’s eye” is to signal to the right readers what’s waiting for them in the book.

So now I need to remember that—and use it to get past this horrible perfectionism that still ties me up when I’m working on a cover.

Finally, yes, I’m still off coffee and tea. But something’s got my brain working overtime, because I woke up at 2 am and couldn’t go back to sleep because of too much brain activity. Or maybe it’s the time change still screwing with me. Who knows? The end result is that I’m exhausted today and have a headache from a sleepless night, and I don’t really care why. I was miserable from 2 to 6.

Tuesday’s session log

Minutes Words Session WPH
40 515 515 773
40 766 251 377
40 1,157 391 587
40 1,654 497 746
160 Total minutes
1,654 Total words
620 Total WPH

My pace was down and I can’t really explain why, but I’m hoping I’ll do a bit better today. It’s 12:04 pm, though, and I haven’t even looked at my book this morning, so we’ll see.

Believe it or not, I’m making fewer typos than usual, despite the lack of sleep, and my words are flowing nice and fast.

It might be a good day to write, in spite of everything. :D

Schedule is a suggestion, not a rule

This morning, I couldn’t seem to get started on my writing, and after thinking it over a bit, I decided that maybe I just had too much on my mind. I have an account at Dreamstime for stock photos and had signed up for a 5 images a month subscription in late December (usually I just buy credits) and it was set to renew later tonight. I didn’t want it to renew, but I couldn’t cancel it without downloading the images that had rolled over into this month or I’d have paid for January and February for nothing. :o

So I decided to get that taken care of. It took me a long, long time to pick out images!

In the end, I cancelled that subscription but decided that using credits isn’t going to be economically sound if I publish as much as I want to this year (if!), and I chose to buy their much more robust 150 images a month subscription instead.

Yes, it’s quite a bit more money. But 150(!) images a month, and I can download all in one day if I want (some stock sites won’t let you do that, instead imposing a daily download limit in addition to the monthly limit), and that means I don’t have to be so picky with images—the new subscription knocks the cost down to less than $1 each. With credits (or through the subscription I’ve been using for the last two months), those same images cost me about $8 each.

I’m going to spend a couple of months picking a wide selection of images and then see what I’ve got. But it’s a good deal and I need the stock if I’m going to keep trying to learn to design better covers for my books. :)

Now, with that many images at my disposal, I’m really looking forward to my cover design practice. Lots of great images to play around with without spending a fortune buying up credits—and I don’t have to spend time using comp images and then redo all my work when I hit on a clever design I want to use for real. :)

I didn’t end up getting any writing done today, and I’ve had to remind myself: the schedule is a suggestion, not a rule. My ultimate goal is 28 hours a week of timed writing and 22,630 words. I can have days where I just have to do other things.

See you back here tomorrow for some make up writing. :D